The young mother had purchased groceries, but she didn't have enough money left to buy diapers for her infant son.
That's when security officers at a Laurel, Maryland, supermarket caught her attempting to shoplift two packs of diapers, worth about $15, according to Laurel Police.
But instead of arresting the woman, Officer Bennett Johns bought the diapers for her with his own money, police said.
"Though we often joke that our field trainees are still in diapers, it turns out that rookie Officer Johns was not buying these for himself," Laurel police wrote on Facebook on Saturday, along with a photo of Johns making his purchase.
Johns realized the woman, whose name has not been released, was struggling to provide for her son, according to Laurel Police spokeswoman Audrey Barnes. As someone who grew up with a single mother, he hoped to give the child a better life.
"Just out of personal kindness, he decided to go ahead and buy them," Barnes said. "It speaks to the heart of what community policing is all about."
Johns' actions demonstrate the department's push for its officers to establish meaningful relationships with residents even when there is no crisis happening, Barnes said.
"Though it's but a snapshot of some of the work your officers are doing daily, we still wanted to take a moment to thank Officer Johns for not just fairly enforcing the law, but also showing empathy to an innocent child put in a difficult situation," police said in their post.
Johns did issue the woman a citation for theft, which means she will have to appear in court for the misdemeanor, WSVN reports.
The city of Laurel has since referred the woman to an advocacy service that helps struggling families in the area.
"We want to make sure she doesn't fall through the cracks," Barnes said.